North Carolina is among the seven states with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the country, the CDC reported Monday, with less than 1 percent of the population being vaccinated so far.
The CDC vaccination dashboard shows North Carolina has given the first dose of the vaccination to 966 per 100,000 people.
"It is probably going somewhat slower than what we thought it would," said Dr. Dennis Taylor, who treats patients at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem. He's also president of the North Carolina Nurses Association. "And I'm not sure exactly where the issues are, whether it is in the just the record keeping piece of that or what. From what I understand, we do have the vaccine. It's just a matter of getting the sites set up for people to actually get the vaccine."
Due to limited supply, North Carolina vaccinations are happening in phases and health officials say it'll likely be well into spring that the general public can get the vaccine. Currently, North Carolina is in Phase 1a, which includes health care workers, medical staff and first responders who engage with COVID-19 patients, and long-term care staff and residents.
A North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said Monday that some vaccine providers will begin Phase 1b on January 6 but most will begin on January 11.
NCDHHS has a dashboard updated once a week that includes vaccines administered the state. So far, the dashboard shows that 63,571 people have received the first dose. However, NCDHHS said data on their dashboard does not include vaccines administered in long-term care settings and that they know there are more vaccines administered than currently show up on the weekly report.
An NCDHHS spokesperson also said on Monday that, in order to increase the pace of vaccinations, NCDHHS sent a letter to all hospitals and local health departments alerting them that future vaccine allocations will be modified based on the number of vaccines administered that they have reported to the state.
"Getting it to the right place at the right time is almost impossible to do perfectly so the fact that we're doing it within a few months of the coronavirus starting versus 5-10 years, we're already ahead of schedule," said Dr. Arthur Apolinario, who treats patients at Clinton Medical Clinic. He is also co-chair of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine's COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee that gave feedback to the state about how to distribute the vaccine. "We know there's going to be hiccups. We know there are certain people who believe they should get it faster or sooner."
ABC11 reached out to Triangle hospitals to find out how many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine they've administered. Duke Health has administered more than 10,000 doses. They started second doses Sunday along with first dose administrations. UNC Health has vaccinated more than 13,000 employees so far. The second doses for early recipients are scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Nearly 4,000 WakeMed employees have received their first dose of the vaccination with an additional 1,200 employees scheduled to be vaccinated (first dose) between Monday and Friday. They began administering the second dose this week.
Dr. Apolinario laid out what'll happen when the vaccine is offered to everyone in North Carolina.
"We're going to have wider distribution," Dr. Apolinario said. "It's not just going to be the health department and the hospitals providing the vaccine at that point. The vaccines in the pipeline, they all have the ability to be provided in doctors' offices where we don't need special refrigerators to keep them colder than the current vaccines so distribution will be more widespread. We're looking at talking to churches, we're looking at of course, primary care offices."
Dr. Apolinario and Dr. Taylor both work with COVID-19 patients and got their first dose of the vaccine. Dr. Taylor said he'll get the second dose Friday.
"The first dose did not bother me at all," Dr. Taylor said. "I did not have any soreness around the site. I did not run a fever, really had no symptoms from getting the first dose at all. From what I understand, people that are getting the second dose have a little more of a local reaction to it, so a little more muscle soreness around the site of the injection, but that's really about it."
Former FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan told ABC11 via email that North Carolina is addressing vaccine distribution through a public health approach and that the gap the state is facing is not that unusual at this point in the rollout.
In Wake County, they've received 3,085 total Pfizer vaccines and 1,065 have been administered as of Monday morning.
Former state health director Dr. Leah Devlin was part of the COVID-19 vaccine advisory committee
attributes a lot of the issues to not enough vaccine and said it's important for people to listen to the news and note when it's their turn.
"We have an effective vaccine that's amazing. We have a plan to put that vaccine in place. Vaccine is arriving in our state every week. There will be eventually be a vaccine for every person in North Carolina that's willing to take it," said Dr. Devlin.
"The light is at the end of the tunnel. I think you've heard Dr. Fauci say that but we're still in the tunnel so be patient, protect yourself, your family, your friends and listen to when it's your time to go get that shot," said Dr. Devlin. "We're there, we're going to have most of the population immunized by summer so that is really great news," said Dr. Devlin.